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Over the last year, a global health security problem has emerged. The Ebola virus disease (EVD), which, according to Arwady et al. (2015), had been previously known as an “exotic tropical disease”, suddenly became a worldwide concern during summer 2014, after a few outbreaks of it occurred in West Africa (p. 578, 583). In our paper, we will look at the crux of the issue, its importance, factors that might influence the scale of the problem, and make some claims about the possible origins of the problem and solutions to it.
The Essence and Significance of the Ebola Problem
EVD is a highly transmittable, perilous disease which has exceptionally high fatality rates. There exist five identified types of the virus of the Ebolavirus genus, three of which have a fatality rate varying from 40 to 90% (McElroy et al., 2014, p.1683). A single infected traveling person can spread the disease to a large number of people and unless the prevention measures are applied, an outbreak can emerge (Arwady et al., 2015, p. 583).
The problem of Ebola is of crucial importance. There is a great need for international humanitarian help and solidarity towards the affected countries. For instance, Liberia, a West African country, was one of the first struck by the epidemic in 2014. It had less than 200 doctors before the first outbreak began (for a total population of approximately 4 million people) (Arwady et al., 2015, p. 578). There were not nearly enough Ebola treating units (ETUs) in Liberia, and sick patients had to lie on the ground outside hospitals (Arwady et al., 2015, p. 582-583). By 15 August, 826 cases of EVD were reported in Liberia, 455 of them lethal (Arwady et al., 2015, p. 580). Due to the lack of beds, many patients have turned away from hospitals during the following months. By September 2014, EVD spread further across Liberia, cases of infection doubling every 15-20 days (Arwady et al., 2015, p. 583). In October 2014, EVD spread across Sierra Leone and Guinea (Rainisch, Shankar, Wellman, Merlin, & Meltzer, 2015, p. 446). The affected countries quickly ran out of medical supplies, such as gloves, disinfectants, and body bags (Arwady et al., 2015, p. 579).
In 2014, the deadly virus was also transmitted to some Western countries (the USA and Spain) (Rainisch et al., 2015, p. 444), which stimulated it’s becoming a global issue.
An acute necessity for further research exists. First, the natural reservoir of Ebola is not yet identified (Ebola, 2015, Transmission, para. 1), which complicates the disease’s prevention. Second, no specific FDA-approved medicines exist currently, and the disease is only treated symptomatically, which means that the development of effective anti-Ebola medications and vaccines is highly required (Ebola, 2015, Treatment, para. 1).
Factors Influencing the Problem at Different Levels
Several factors influence the chance of spreading EVD, and, consequently, the importance of the issue in perspective. Let us look into them in more detail.
Speaking about fighting Ebola at the intrapersonal and interpersonal levels, it can be noted that high levels of awareness of the specifics of the disease’s transmission ways, high attention to possible sources of the virus, and personal attempts to prevent the infection can decrease the chance of spreading the contagion. For example, on 20 July 2014, an infected man who traveled by air from Monrovia, Liberia to Lagos, Nigeria, caused 20 cases of infection, which “required public health authorities to follow up on nearly 900 contacts to successfully contain the outbreak” (Arwady et al., 2015, p. 583). This could have been prevented if necessary countermeasures were taken by the man and the people he came in contact with. It appears that little more can be done at a personal level, as poverty and the availability of medical services are problems that transcend this level.
According to Arwady et al. (2015), “the standard approach to controlling EVD epidemics depends on active case finding and isolation of patients, with identification and careful monitoring of their contacts and immediate isolation of any contacts who develop symptoms” (p. 582). It means that any organization sending people to areas where there is a risk of contracting EVD should provide their members with enough information on the issue, arrange special supplies for them and organize medical supervision. The same is true of communities where there exists a possibility of its members traveling to risky regions. A negative factor, in this case, might be the carelessness of organizations and their attempts to save money.
Speaking about the societal and international levels, possible countermeasures include “EVD surveillance; establishing… EVD patient care…; improving infection control practices; establishing an incident management system”, and implementing “EVD screening of departing passengers” (Arwady et al., 2015, p. 578). As we mentioned before, there is also a great need for international help and solidarity, for the primal source of the contagion is located in extremely poor countries, citizens of which do not have access to proper health service (or, often, to any health service at all); and there is the need to develop new medications. Needless to say, such measures require financing, and the lack of them might hurt the problem.
An Alternative Approach to the Problem
A possible approach to the emergence of the global problem of Ebola is to take into account a phenomenon that is sometimes labeled as “cultural racism”. The crux of it is that the problems of the Third World are perceived as unimportant until they pose a direct threat to the First World. In our case, it should be noted that “Ebola was first discovered in 1976 near the Ebola River… Since then, outbreaks have appeared sporadically in Africa” (Ebola, 2015, About Ebola, para. 1). Despite being a deadly disease, Ebola became the center of public attention only as a result of the outbreak in 2014, when EVD became a danger to the First World. Of course, the roots of this problem are economic: however deadly the contagion is, it is unprofitable for pharmaceutical companies to develop medications for a disease that is only spread in poor countries of Africa because citizens of these countries will not be able to compensate for the expenses of the development. It can easily be seen from the Ebola situation that cultural racism can lead to severe outcomes in all three Worlds. This is a global problem, though, and possible solutions also need to be global. These solutions might include or entail fighting world poverty, uneven distribution of resources, and looking for alternatives to the race for profit.
As we have seen, EVD is a dangerous, often deadly contagion that can potentially spread worldwide. To prevent this, special countermeasures should be taken. These countermeasures include health monitoring, developing medications, promoting personal awareness, and some others. Another approach might include fighting world poverty to help stop the current problem and prevent similar situations from emerging in the future.
The article addresses the recently emerged global health security problem, namely outbreaks of the virus Ebola in Africa and the possible spread of. After explaining the crux of the problem and its significance, factors that influence the problem at different levels of social organization (intrapersonal, interpersonal, organizational, the level of community, societal and international levels). Finally, an alternative approach to the problem is discussed.
Arwady, M. A., Bawo, L., Hunter, J. C., Massaquoi, M., Matanock, A., Dahn, B.,… De Cock, K.M. (2015, April). Evolution of Ebola virus disease from exotic infection to global health priority, Liberia, mid-2014. Emerging Infectious Diseases, 21(4), 578-584.
Ebola (Ebola Virus Disease). (2015). Web.
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McElroy, A. K., Erickson, B. R., Flietstra, T. D., Rollin, P. E., Nichol, S. T., Towner, J. S., Spiropoulou, C. F. (2014, October). Biomarker correlates of survival in pediatric patients with Ebola virus disease. Emerging Infectious Diseases, 20(10), 1683-1690.
Rainisch, G., Shankar, M., Wellman, M., Merlin, T., & Meltzer, M. I. (2015, March). Regional spread of Ebola virus, West Africa, 2014. Emerging Infectious Diseases, 21(3), 444-447.